There was no entourage, no hooting from shore, no party. I was the only one to show up, actually. I had had secret dreams of having all of my paddling buddies with me for my 100th day, all of us splashing downriver in the sunshine, but I knew that would be impossible to plan for.
Instead, on my 100th day of paddling in 2014, I watched the levels on Dreamflows rise on the South Fork American knowing I could neither stay away, nor arrange a downstream shuttle. There was only one option left, a surf session at Barking Dog play wave.
I sent a courtesy message to the boyfriend, whom I know really wanted to spend my 100th day with me, but also knows me well enough to never stand between me and water. With his blessing I tossed my gear in and parked at Camp Lotus, which is shut down for the season. With no one standing witness but a few geese, I slipped into my boat and glided downstream to the wave.
I can’t say anything miraculous happened on my 100th day. I did manage to give myself a couple of throbbing ice cream headaches while taking too long to roll up, and on my very last surf (after the water had come up significantly) I maneuvered two full 360 spins on the wave. It’s a basic move, but apparently not so basic for me as I’ve struggled with the dynamic coordination of feet, hips, paddle stroke, direction of gaze, and f*&% knows what else I’m not doing to make it happen after months of working on it. So I guess that is something. My creek boating skills have grown miles from last year, I can say that with certainty. And so has my boating community- that’s one of the best parts.
The whole 100 days of paddling thing was simultaneously an arbitrary goal to prove to myself that I can commit to something that seemed out of reach and a way to fast track my boating skills in attempt to access more of the rivers I’d like to run. I had a few raised eyebrows when I stated my goal, and I can’t blame them. I’ve had a few other hairbrained ideas in the past, but I’ve also made a good number of them come true.
It’s been one of the worse drought years on record here in CA. I live 3.5 hours from the nearest whitewater. I don’t have much in the way of income to support a traveling lifestyle. There were the little blips along the way, like my car and boat getting stolen and chronic injuries. But so what. So what if I’ve gone from being a dirtbag field biologist to a dirtbag climber to now the even more glorious and stinking dirtbag kayaker. I’ve managed to continue publishing water sport articles, some written from the living room floor of a friend’s house in between laps on Chamberlains. In the spring and summer I became an on site biologist at the largest dam removal in California in Carmel Valley and watched crews put a river in a tube. The left over food from my per diem on that job fed me through my weekends of teaching kayaking on the SF American where I learned exactly how much I don’t know about technique, but do know about reading people’s body language. I worked for a couple non profits putting people on the river and money in the hands of those that fight for our river access. For being such an ocean baby it’s starting to sound like it’s all about rivers. And so it is, for now.
Reaching 100 days doesn’t mean I’m going to stop. In fact I’m packing to head north again this weekend to my river roots of the Smith watershed. I’m taking my boyfriend with me this time, he’s never been there. Now imagine that, a rookie showing a kayaker of 25+ years something new. I have indeed come a long way.
Cheers to everyone who has supported me along this adventure! First and foremost my Mom!! Because she supports me in everything I do, even when she has no idea what I’m really doing and even if it scares the pants off her. My sister too, for reserving that patch of grass in the back yard for me to camp on.
Thank you Sparkles, for coming back and being my paddle buddy. Daniel and Diane, I don’t know how many nights I spent at your house, but you guys are the best hosts ever and there is always a Pink Eye waiting for you in my cooler.
Thank you to all the people who showed me down new runs, paddled with me on old runs and who asked me to show you down runs: Wes Shrek, Paul Gamache, Grant Werschkull, Jessa Rego, Jeff Wheeler, Eric Petlock, Lisa Byers, Lori Thurbs, Kate Sequig, Emme King, Roman and Smokey Pittman, David Mauier- I would never have learned how to lifestyle properly without you, Kyle and Timon-my first paddle buddies! Erin, Chrissy, Nate, Jared, Jonathan and Hunter- memorable times in OR, Tom and Chad Long,Corey, Bryant, Shawn, Kira and Jeff- for teaching me how to teach, Mr. Keith Miller- thanks for believing in me! Patti- for paddling with me on your 74th birthday! Hilde, Patso and the gang- for your shoulder while floating down river. Erica, Lyle, Nate, Lee, Lydia, Matt P, Matt T, Elijah, Victoria, Kat, Dan, Tim, James, Morgan, Stew, Albert, Michelle, Caitlin, Raul, Darin, Shanamar, Jon H, Jon C, Kayla, Ryan, Amy, Donna, Adam, Jay, Feral, Beth…and the list could go on forever with all the amazing river folks out there!